Israel’s Religious Services Minister David Azoulay said Tuesday that he does not consider Reform Jews to be Jewish, and urged them to turn to Orthodox Judaism.
Azoulay told Army Radio that “A Reform Jew, from the moment he stops following Jewish law, I cannot allow myself to say that he is a Jew.” Azoulay, a member of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, added: “These are Jews that have lost their way, and we must ensure that every Jew returns to the fold of Judaism, and accept everyone with love and joy.”
The comments come days after the cabinet voted to reverse an initiative aimed at easing the conversion process to Judaism. It marked a blow to attempts by parties in the previous government to end the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on religious life in Israel.
Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism comprise the largest denominations in the United States but they are mostly marginal in Israel, where religious life is dominated by the strict ultra-Orthodox establishment.
The conversion initiative, which was passed by the Knesset Law Committee last year, was considered one of the previous government’s major achievements before elections were called and the legislation process was halted. But the policy was repealed Sunday in fulfillment of part of the coalition agreement between the Likud party and the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism.
Under the soon-to-be defunct measure, as many as 30 courts made up of municipal rabbis would have been approved to conduct conversions. Currently there are 33 rabbis and only four conversion courts that can legally perform conversions throughout Israel.